Feb 082016

When I flipped to a new tab on my browser this afternoon to perform a Google search, I was greeted by an image of a tribe of monkeys, with each monkey doing its own thing. It strikes me that this is how many of us feel at the beginning of the work week: a little scattered when focus is required, and altogether too busy. Some people refer, jokingly, to the first working day of the week as Blue Monday, especially if they don’t care for their job. Because I don’t fall into that category—I do enjoy my job—I guess I might sometimes refer to the beginning of the week as Madcap Monday, simply because that’s when I find myself juggling priorities to determine what, when and how much will be accomplished during the week.

Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of TAW4 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mondays are generally busy days for nearly everyone I know, but I wonder if they might feel less so if we sit back, take a deep breath, and deliberately slow things down. In other words, we might find ourselves becoming more productive by taking a moment to be mindful of something else entirely than the task at hand.

According to Tsh (pronounced Tish) Oxenrider in My break-up with busy, “It’s like we don’t even think ‘busy’ is a unique, situational status in our lives. It’s strange to not be busy.” When our schedules are so full that we cannot even breathe, Tsh does what on the surface seems counterproductive: she takes a walk. I have found myself doing the same at work, to be honest. The building in which I work is campus-sized, and it takes a while to walk from one end of the building and back. When I return to my desk, I have a fresh outlook, a new store of energy, and focus.

It’s not just in the traditional business world that you encounter that phenomenon of being too busy. You can work at home and have so much to do that you don’t know where to begin. That’s when it’s probably best to simply take a break and do something that gives you pleasure. Maybe that means you’ll read for 30 minutes, take a walk, listen to some music while you close your eyes and think about absolutely nothing, or maybe you’ll pull out some colored pencils and color in one of those adult coloring books that are so popular right now. Possibly you’ll take a few moments to water your plants and trim the brown leaves.

While I was recuperating from surgery, John brought me some African violets to tend.

While I was recuperating from surgery, John brought me some African violets to tend.

Whatever you decide to do to beat back that sense of being too busy, you’ll want to give it your full attention. Maybe you will decide to do nothing. So, give nothing your all, and just let the moment stretch out. I have never meditated, at least not officially, but I suspect that’s what meditation is all about.

Possibly your way of taking a proverbial walk is to think about what makes you happy. And that’s what I am going to do in this post . . . I’d like to share with you three small pleasures that simply make me feel calm, appreciative, or glad. You’ll notice that each pleasure involves the senses—sight, sound, scent, and touch—as well as movement or the lack of movement.

Sitting in front of a fire, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. I like to move my rocking chair close to the warmth, listen to the crackling flames, and allow the wood smoke to drift my way. And then I think about nothing at all. The result is often clarity about some issue or problem, likely because you’re giving the subconscious part of your mind space in which to work things through.

Crackling Fire

For my birthday, my husband presented me with a tin of 72 Prismacolor® colored pencils. I can’t wait to try them out on the designs inside the adult coloring book below. The pencils are butter-soft with rich colors, and blend beautifully. When I color, it’s not just about what I see in front of me, but also the sensation of soft lead pressing into the paper, that makes me feel calm and surprised, by turns.


You can practice mindfulness while enjoying flavors. It doesn’t take long to mix up a fruit smoothie, topped off with a ball of vanilla bean ice cream. The first swallow is pure pleasure, so take it slowly and enjoy each sip through your straw. For just a little while, don’t think about anything but the flavors rolling inside your mouth and sliding down your throat. When you’re finished, you’ll have new energy for your next project.

These glasses are a bit overfilled, but they didn't stay that way long. To make two full glasses, blend the following in your blender, using pulse/chop mode: 1 banana, 2 cups of orange juice, and 1 cup of frozen strawberries, and 1 cup of frozen raspberries or mixed berries. Top off with ice cream, and add a chocolate hazelnut "straw" for fun.

These glasses are a bit overfilled, but they didn’t stay that way long. To make two full glasses, blend the following in your blender, using pulse/chop mode: 1 banana, 2 cups of orange juice, 1 cup of frozen strawberries, and 1 cup of frozen raspberries or mixed berries. Top off with ice cream, and add a chocolate hazelnut “straw” for fun.

Whenever you feel overwhelmed, whether it’s at the beginning or the end of the day, take a few moments to stop. Stop shuffling papers, stop taking calls, and stop making lists. Change gears, and just live in the moment, at least for a while. You’ll be glad you did.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Feb 062016

What do you do with your holiday cards once the season has passed? I hate to throw mine away, so I often use the front side of the cards to embellish bags, especially store bags with logos on them that can then be used for gifts. You can see one of the bags I decorated below from a post I wrote five years ago, titled Five simple ways to wrap your holiday gifts. Mel Lockcuff, in How to Recycle Old Christmas Cards into Festive Placemats, creates collage-style placemats that are laminated with clear Con-Tact® Brand Clear Covering. Pinterest is stocked with ideas about how to recycle your old Christmas cards, such as crafting a 3-D Christmas tree, creating a paper poinsettia that you can use as a package bow, or even sewing together cards to make a Christmas card basket.

Solid Color Bag

I gathered up my cards from this last Christmas and considered what to do with them.

2016 Holiday Cards

Naturally, I save cards that include newsy notes, as well as holiday post cards with family members’ or friends’ photos. These cards will never be recycled or discarded.

Saved Holiday Post Cards

I decided to target the cards that included blue, gray or silver on the front side of the card so that I could make snowflake gift tags. Then I dug into my collection of wafer thin dies and paper punches to see what snowflake patterns I could generate. I did add scrap papers, as needed, in solid sky blue, royal blue and white, as well as some adhesive crystals, and embellished the tags with markers and Tim Holtz Distress Ink. The supplies and tags for the entire project are listed at the bottom of this post, and are identified with numbers so that you can duplicate these tags if you wish, or use my tags as inspiration for your own.

Gift Tag Group 1

From left to right: Tag A – 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15. Tag B – 1, 2, 3, 6, 9, 13, 14, 15. Tag C – 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15.

Gift Tag Group 2

From left to right: Tag D – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag E – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12, 13, 15. Tag F – 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11a, 12.

From left to right: Tags G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

From left to right: Tag G – 1, 8, 11, 12. Tag H – 7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag I –7, 8, 9, 10, 11a, 12. Tag J – 1, 8, 11, 12.

Favorite Gift Tag

Snowflake Tag K above is my favorite one. Supplies include 1, 6, 9, 10, 11, and 12.

When I was finished with the snowflake tags, which involved six different holiday cards, I ended up with more than two dozen gift tags. Yes, it’s detailed work, but it’s relaxing in the same way that you might find coloring the images inside adult coloring books.

What do you do with your old holiday cards?

1. Die – Spellbinders S4-114 Standard Circles
2. Die – Spellbinders S4-404 Create-a-Flake Five
3. Die – Spellbinders S5-065 Moroccan Motifs
3a. Die – Memory Box 98914 Bristol Snowflake
4. Punch – EK Success 1” Scallop Circle
5. Punch – EK Success 1-1/4” Circle
6. Punch – EK Success 2” Circle
7. Punch – EK Success 2” Scallop Circle
8. Punch – EK Success 2-1/2” Circle
9. Tim Holtz Distress Ink – Faded Jeans
10. Making Memories Paper Piercer
11. Marker – Sharpie Permanent Marker Silver Metallic
11a. Marker – Copic Sketch B97 Night Blue
12. Adhesive – Xyron Create-a-Sticker
13. Adhesive – Judi Kins Diamond Glaze
14. Adhesive – Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue
15. Embellishment – Hero Arts Gemstones

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Jan 282016

Blogging Business Artisans is a diverse team of Etsy sellers and bloggers to which I belong. We support and encourage each other to grow as artisans and business owners while socializing online through private discussions. One of our team requirements is meeting a team challenge four times a year. There are 12 challenges, and you choose the ones that appeal to you most and/or whose timing you can meet.

This month, jewelry designer Sharla of Beaded Tail challenged teammates as follows:

What do you hope to accomplish this year? What are you looking forward to doing in 2016? Do you have plans to travel someplace exciting, move to a new home/city or how about get a kitten? Will you be taking your shop in new directions? Let us know or give us a hint of your year to come!”

As some of you may already know, this first month of 2016 got started with a big surprise: the news that I had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer, subsequently underwent major surgery and am now in recovery, and will likely be looking soon at the possibility of several radiation sessions. Whatever else I had planned for 2016, I must say that starting off the year this way clarifies and simplifies your priorities. So, here we go!

Celebrate the moment. In January nearly everyone I know, including myself, vows that this will be the year they eat more healthy foods, become more fit, get adequate sleep—in short, this will be the year of the body makeover. My goal this year is not so lofty; I’d simply like to recover from surgery, successfully undergo radiation treatment, and then live each day in a balanced way. Certainly that means making better food choices and establishing a regular routine of walking. But it doesn’t mean climbing a mountain, booking an exotic cruise, or moving into a more spacious home (which would be nice). It does mean taking joy in the small moments and being happy to be alive.

Flowers from Mary

Write more. In my previous post I mentioned that last August I started working full-time out of the home after spending many years at home, writing, crafting and volunteering. The result was that my writing habits languished—something I deeply missed. Writing helps me maintain a positive outlook. I use blogging, a public form of writing, to touch base with others whose interests are similar to mine, or to share my passion for creative endeavors. I write poetry, a private form of writing, to reflect about personal issues. I’d love to get back to writing real letters—old-fashioned paper letters that make people laugh and cry and hope and reminisce, real letters that people unfold and re-read and save, instead of e-mail notes that get deleted with a click or deposited into a virtual trash can.

The Write Goal

Keep the hands busy. Everywhere you look, I have UFOs (UnFinished Objects) scattered all over the house. There are balls of yarn on the family room couch in the basement, waiting to be crocheted. There are projects bags filled with linen fabric, colored threads and beads, waiting to be stitched up. There are boxes—yes, stacked boxes—of fabric, waiting to be sewn up into organizers, journal covers, purses, place mats and more. There are stacks of card stock and printed papers on the verge of being turned into handmade books. And finally, there are lists of project ideas that will likely never see the light of day. I perpetually lament not having enough time to get things done, but the reality is that I will never have enough time in this lifetime to get it all done. Who does? But you’ll never get anything finished if you don’t start. Just keep the hands busy, and do it. Get used to doing what you can with the time that you have, and don’t look back.

Yarn UFOs

That’s it. Those are my goals for this year. Everything else is secondary. What are your goals for 2016?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.